The chief constables of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police, in discussion with both police and crime commissioners, have been progressing with the proposal to merge the two forces since the announcement was made last September.
Police and Crime Commissioners Alison Hernandez (Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) and Martyn Underhill (Dorset) have launched a public survey to know what the public think of the plans for a merger of the two forces.
There is an established strategic alliance programme between the forces which has seen significant efficiencies and increased collaboration since March 2015. Around 25% of staff are already operating within the strategic alliance, including some areas of specialist policing such as roads policing, firearms and dogs.
A single leadership will reduce the number of chief officers and police and crime commissioners: One Police and Crime Plan, one vision, one mission.
In a joint statement Chief Constables Shaun Sawyer (Devon and Cornwall) and James Vaughan (Dorset) said: “The merger is set in the context of an ever increasing local, national and international demand on policing which requires investment and new approaches. This, in addition to the increasing financial challenges which the PCCs are actively seeking to address, is amongst some of the arguments in favour of a merger.
“We believe the proposed merger is also the right thing to do, not only for our communities but also in respect of the wider South West landscape and our workforce who are actively managing those increasing demands on a daily basis.
“By working closer together, cutting duplication and making the most of our combined resources, a merger would help develop local and neighbourhood policing, protect our communities and improve the service we deliver to the public.
“A merged force would provide a single vision that would continue to deliver future savings and build capabilities through merging which even a developed Alliance could not achieve. We would increase the amount of savings we can make, allowing us to be more innovative and transform the way we deliver our services.
“Truly unified and integrated resources will give the force more resilience and flexibility. Working together is the best way to meet the challenge of emerging threats and to operate more effectively, both now and in the future.
“Merging the two forces allows us to better maintain and develop our local policing service across the three counties through even greater devolvement and gives us a greater ability to re-invest in our services. We will also be in line with the Government’s direction of greater reform in policing.
“Both forces have similar policing styles, values and priorities with cultures based on delivering resilient and sustainable services to our communities. If we merge, we will develop a three-county policing model, each with its own county headquarters which will give better local visibility, connectivity and accountability in order to maintain a geographic approach to local matters.
“The metropolitan forces often dominate the policing landscape. A merger would create the fifth largest force in the country, giving us and you a stronger national voice.”
Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “The chief constables’ decision to explore the possibility of merger between the two forces has far reaching implications for the people of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and I would encourage everyone to get involved in the upcoming public engagement.
“My team and I will be speaking to the public over the summer, at events, meetings and when out and about, to find out what they think.
“I am optimistic about the prospects for the proposed merger. I can see the potential benefits, but I absolutely recognise that there are many decisions yet to be made, and many views yet to be sought. That’s why I would encourage people to come and meet us, find out more about the proposal and have their say by completing the survey.”
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly said: “Combining the two forces would create a vast policing area, stretching from St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly to Bournemouth and including inner cities, coastal resorts and rural areas.
“While there are clearly advantages to such a merger the proposals would have widespread implications for policing and the way it is funded.
“That’s why my team is embarking on its biggest ever public engagement exercise. I would urge everyone in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to appraise themselves of the facts and to take a few minutes to have their say in this important issue by answering the questions in our survey.
“I think it is vitally important that any merger has a clear public mandate.”
Go to www.futurepolicing.co.uk for more information about the proposed merger and to complete survey. The survey will run from Friday 29 June until Monday 27 August.
The results of the survey will form part of a business case that will be submitted to the Home Office in the autumn.
For a printed copy of the survey contact your police and crime commissioner’s office.